Gainax is an anime studio that's generally worth paying attention to. From Otaku no Video to FLCL to Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gainax has gained a rep for creating visually striking and critically acclaimed works. Their latest project is Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt, a series that's reminiscent of the classic mid-to-late '90s era of Cartoon Network animation. It looks like a naughty version of The Powerpuff Girls, and feels like the result of an unholy union between Ren & Stimpy and Dirty Pair. It's raunchy, gross, a whole lot of fun, and currently streaming for free on Crunchyroll. [Lightly NSFW images after the jump]
Panty and Stocking are two angels who have been cast down from Heaven and must kill monsters to collect Heaven Coins. The purpose of the coins isn't clear, and neither is the reason that they left Heaven, but the plot simply provides a framework for Gainax to cram as many sex jokes, poop jokes, and on-screen sound effects as possible into a single series.
The first monster they fight is a poop monster who attempts to suck Panty into the toilet while she uses it as "guzzle," "churn," and a handful of other scatological sound effects flash on screen shortly before the bathroom floods with crap. Stocking and Garterbelt come up to investigate and immediately start vomiting. Later, when the monster invades the town (mistaken, of course, for a large scoop of chocolate ice cream), the entire town goes into vomiting fits.
The two leads are like a twisted funhouse mirror version of Kei and Yuri from Dirty Pair, except instead of one sweet lady and one a rough'n'tumble chick, they're both pretty short-tempered and rude. Panty is an unrepentant nymphomaniac who makes a sex tape with a very thinly veiled Johnny Bravo in one episode. Stocking is absolutely addicted to sweets like candy and pastries, and regularly updates her blog with detailed reviews. The two of them fight like sisters, but when it's time to get down to the business of fighting Ghosts, the villains of the series, they... still fight like sisters. And they get the job done, generally with a massive amount of property damage, cursing, and casualties.
Panty & Stocking runs counter to what you'd expect to see out of a show with that name. While it does indulge in moments of cheap titillation -- when the girls transform, the cartoony style gives way to a more traditional style of animation, complete with jiggly bits -- the rest of the series is aggressively anti-sexy. The characters are too flat and too cartoony to be genuinely erotic, and the fast-paced visuals lend themselves to action scenes, not cheesecake. But this doesn't stop Gainax from layering every episode with splashes of pee, condoms used as chewing gum (Panty doesn't know what condoms are, which raises a whole host of questions), liberal cursing, and sheer cruelty, of course.
What's most surprising about Panty & Stocking isn't the clash in animation style and subject matter, or even the fact that it's such a clear "Powerpuff Girls" reference some five years after the series ended its original run. No, the biggest surprise is that each episode is split into two twelve-minute segments, in the style of shows from Adult Swim's heyday.
Getting two stories in one shot makes the series feel a little more gag-driven, but it also makes for extremely punchy episodes. There's no room for filler or time wasting, so every episode is to the point. The length of each segment gives Panty & Stocking a sharp focus, and forces all of the characterization into the action scenes or various plot-based montages. It makes for strangely dense, but enjoyable, viewing.
Panty & Stocking wears its influences on its sleeve; we've all seen the structure, visual style, and jokes before,and you can probably guess a few of the plot points before they happen. But the mix of disparate influences and material makes it a refreshingly funny anime, and dumb in a way where you can clearly see the hand of smart, experienced animators at work behind the scenes.
The aggressive use of sound effects makes scenes of mere talking heads into something visually exciting, and the constant barrage of sex jokes may be juvenile, but it's still funny. Panty & Stocking works may not be greater than its individual parts, but it is different, and that in and of itself makes it worth checking out.
[Images via AICNAnime's Twitpic and BenHuber's Twitpic (one, two). The translations are of currently unknown origin.]
ComicsAlliance is where comic books and pop culture collide, superheroes battle through movies and video games, and graphic novels steal the headlines.
For the latest news on Marvel Comics, DC Comics, comic downloads, comic book movies, digital comics, free comics, and comic book movies, check out Comicsalliance.com.